No End in Sight: Wikis

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No End In Sight

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Charles Ferguson
Produced by Charles Ferguson
Jennie Amias
Audrey Marrs
Jessie Vogelson
Alex Gibney (executive producer)
Starring Campbell Scott
Music by David Weiss Duduk
Editing by Chad Beck
Cindy Lee
Distributed by Magnolia Pictures
Release date(s) 2007-07-27
Running time 102 minutes
Country USA
Language English

No End in Sight is a 2007 documentary film about the American occupation of Iraq. The film marks the directorial debut of political scientist and former software entrepreneur Charles H. Ferguson. The film premiered January 22, 2007 at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. The film opened in limited release in the United States on July 27, 2007, playing in 2 theaters. As of December 2007, the film had grossed $1.4 million, and had been released on DVD.[1]

Contents

Interviews

To a large extent the film consists of interviews with the people who were involved in the initial Iraqi occupation authority and the ORHA (the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, later replaced by the CPA, the Coalition Provisional Authority). Thirty-five people are interviewed, many of them former Bush loyalists who have since become disillusioned by what they experienced at the time. In particular, many of those interviewed claim that the inexperience of the core members of the Bush administration — and their refusal to seek, acknowledge or accept input from more experienced outsiders — was at the root of the disastrous occupation effort. Others include former soldiers stationed in Iraq, as well as authors and journalists critical of the war planning.

Those interviewed are:

Synopsis

No End in Sight is a documentary film that focuses on the two year period following the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The film asserts that serious mistakes made by the administration of President George W. Bush during that time were the cause of ensuing problems in Iraq, such as the rise of the insurgency, a lack of security and basic utilities for many Iraqis, sectarian violence and, at one point, the risk of complete civil war.

The documentary initially touches upon certain aspects of the Bush Administration's planning of the occupation of Iraq prior to the reconstruction. One mis-assumption that President Bush made was that the Shi'ites (forming a 60% majority of the population) would welcome the invaders. This premise seems to arise from the fact that in 1991, after the end of the Persian Gulf War, the Shi'ites rebelled against Saddam Hussein with the encouragement of President George H. W. Bush. However, despite heavy losses from the Gulf War, Hussein's remaining forces crushed the rebellion. The U.S. did not offer any support to the rebels at the time, nor did the U.S. stop the Iraqi government troops. Another issue in the 2003 invasion was the number of troops that were to be sent. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld estimated that the job would take half of the number of troops that Secretary of State Colin Powell and other U.S. Army generals had requested, but Rumsfeld essentially had his way as he enjoyed more support within the Bush Administration than Powell.

According to No End in Sight, there were three especially grave mistakes made by L. Paul Bremer, the head of the CPA:

  • Not providing enough troops to maintain order, which led to the absence of martial law after the country was conquered. The ORHA had identified at least twenty crucial government buildings and cultural sites in Bagdad, but none of the locations were protected; only the oil ministry was guarded. With no police force or national army to maintain order, ministries and buildings were looted for their desks, tables, chairs, phones, and computers. Large machines and rebars from buildings were also looted. Among these pillaged were Iraqi museums, containing priceless artifacts from some of the earliest human civilizations, which No End in Sight suggested had sent chilling signals to the average Iraqi that the American forces did not intend to maintain law and order. Eventually, the widespread looting turned into an organized destruction of Baghdad. The destruction of libraries and records, in combination with the "De-Ba'athification" had ruined the bureaucracy that existed prior to the U.S. invasion. ORHA staff reported that they had to start from scratch to rebuilt the government infrastructure. Rumsfeld initially dismissed the widespread looting as no worse than rioting in a major American city.
  • Bremer's first official executive order implementing "De-Ba'athification" in the early stages of the occupation, as he considered members disloyal. Saddam Hussein's ruling Ba'ath Party counted as its members a huge majority of Iraq's governmental employees, including educational officials and some teachers, as it was not possible to attain such positions unless one had membership. By order of the CPA, these skilled and often apolitical individuals were banned from holding any positions in Iraq's new government.
  • Bremer's second official executive order disbanding of all of Iraq's military entities, which went against the advice of the U.S. military and made 500,000 young men unemployed. The U.S. Army had wanted the Iraqi troops retained as they knew the locals and could maintain order, but Bremer refused as he felt that they could be disloyal. However, many former Iraqi soldiers then decided that their best chance for a future, many with extended families to support, was to join a militia force. The huge arms depots were available for pillaging by anyone who wanted weapons and explosives, so the former Iraqi soldiers converged on the military stockpiles. The U.S. did know about the location of weapon caches but said that it lacked the troops to secure them; ironically these arms would later be used against the Americans and new Iraqi government forces.

The film cites these three mistakes as the primary causes of the rapid deterioration of occupied Iraq into chaos, as the collapse of the government bureaucracy and army resulted in a lack of authority and order. It was the Islamic fundamentalists that moved to fill this void, so their ranks swelled with many disillusioned Iraqi people.

The documentary also notes that during reconstruction, the U.S. shunned Ba'ath officials and relied upon Ahmed Chalabi instead, someone who they later realized could not be trusted. Chalabi was said to have taken advantage of U.S. resources to eliminate political opponents.

One of these interviewed suggested that the main beneficiary of the Iraq invasion was neighbouring Iran. Prior to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Iraq and Iran were enemies and so kept each other in check. Indeed, some suggested that Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction were mainly to intimidate Iran, which explained why Saddam was not forthcoming with U.N. inspectors. Saddam's fall left Iran more powerful in the region. It also did not help that they elected a hardliner who was anti-Western, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who went on to allegedly produce their own weapons of mass destruction.

Reception

As of March 13, 2008 on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 94% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 84 reviews (79 "fresh", 5 "rotten").[2] On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 89 out of 100, based on 27 reviews.[3]

A. O. Scott of The New York Times called it "exacting, enraging" and said "[Charles Ferguson] presents familiar material with impressive concision and impact, offering a clear, temperate and devastating account of high-level arrogance and incompetence." Scott said "most of the movie deals with a period of a few months in the spring and summer of 2003, when a series of decisions were made that did much to determine the terrible course of subsequent events" and wrote "the knowledge and expertise of military, diplomatic and technical professionals was overridden by the ideological certainty of political loyalists." Scott also remarked, "It might be argued that since Mr. Bremer, Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Wolfowitz declined to appear in the film, Mr. Ferguson was able to present only one side of the story. But the accumulated professional standing of the people he did interview, and their calm, detailed insistence on the facts, makes such an objection implausible." Scott concluded, "It’s a sober, revelatory and absolutely vital film."[4]

Rob Nelson of the Village Voice said "Masterfully edited and cumulatively walloping, Charles Ferguson's No End in Sight turns the well-known details of our monstrously bungled Iraq war into an enraging, apocalyptic litany of fuck-ups." Nelson said the film "is certainly a film about failure, perhaps the ultimate film about failure. Or maybe a film about the ultimate failure?", also writing that the film "is less a work of investigation (or activism) than history." Rob Nelson wrote, "Focusing on the war itself, Ferguson is chiefly interested in compiling a filmed dossier of incompetence—not so much to argue that the war could have been won and won early, but to suggest that the magnitude of arrogant irresponsibility will carry aftershocks as far into the future as the mind can imagine." Nelson also said, "Ferguson's approach is at once relentless and, with the help of Campbell Scott's flat narration, chillingly calm and composed." Nelson wrote, "The evidence speaks for itself, and No End in Sight—addressed to those who'll be swayed against the war by ineptitude more than immorality—is the rare American documentary that doesn't appear to preach to the converted, or at least not only to the converted", also saying "For those of us who've opposed the war for years, the movie is at once intensely frightening and, it must be admitted, disturbingly reassuring."[5] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 4 stars and said "This is not a documentary filled with anti-war activists or sitting ducks for Michael Moore. Most of the people in the film were important to the Bush administration." Ebert concluded, "No, I am distinctly not comparing anyone to Hitler, but I cannot help being reminded of the stories of him in his Berlin bunker, moving nonexistent troops on a map, and issuing orders to dead generals."[6]

New York Post critic Kyle Smith, one of the three critics who rated the film negatively according to Rotten Tomatoes, gave the film 2 1/2 stars out of 4 and said "Some documentaries are a fervent search for truth; others are a fervent search for snickers. This one is the latter, providing via interviews and old film clips a Greatest Hits for Bush haters."[7]

At the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, No End in Sight won the Special Jury Prize for Documentaries.[8]

On January 22, 2008, No End in Sight was named by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of 5 films nominated for a prize in the "Best Documentary Feature" category.[9]

Time magazine's Richard Corliss named the film one of the Top 10 Movies of 2007, ranking it at #7. Corliss praised the film, saying it "stands out for its comprehensive take on how we got there, why we can't get out", and opined that everyone should see it, calling it "the perfect stocking-stuffer for holiday enlightenment."[10][11]

No End in Sight received the following awards in the 2007 film season:[12]

  • National Society of Film Critics Award: Best Non-Fiction Film
  • New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Best Non-Fiction Film
  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards: Best Documentary/Non-Fiction Film
  • San Francisco Film Critics Circle: Best Documentary
  • Florida Film Critics Circle Awards: Best Documentary
  • Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards: Best Documentary
  • Toronto Film Critics Association Awards: Best Documentary
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Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.[13]

Book version

A book version of No End in Sight is available from the publisher PublicAffairs.[14]

Interviews

References

  1. ^ Kilday, Gregg (2008-01-04). "Iraq documentary generates book and Oscar hopes". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/entertainmentNews/idUSN0428011620080104?sp=true. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  2. ^ "No End in Sight - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/no_end_in_sight/. Retrieved 2007-10-13.  
  3. ^ "No End in Sight (2007): Reviews". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/noendinsight. Retrieved 2008-03-13.  
  4. ^ A.O. Scott (2007-07-27). "In the Beginning: Focusing on the Iraq War Enablers". The New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/2007/07/27/movies/27sigh.html. Retrieved 2007-09-12.  
  5. ^ Rob Nelson (2007-07-24). "Surge This". Village Voice. http://www.villagevoice.com/film/0730,nelson,77309,20.html. Retrieved 2007-09-12.  
  6. ^ Roger Ebert (2007-08-10). ":: rogerebert.com :: Reviews :: No End in Sight". Chicago Sun-Times. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070809/REVIEWS/708090301/1023. Retrieved 2007-09-12.  
  7. ^ Kyle Smith (2007-07-27). "END CAN'T JUSTIFY SCENES". New York Post. http://www.nypost.com/seven/07272007/entertainment/movies/end_cant_justify_scenes_movies_kyle_smith.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-12.  
  8. ^ "2007 Sundance Film Festival award winners". The Salt Lake Tribune. 2007-01-28. http://www.sltrib.com/ci_5105046. Retrieved 2007-01-28.  
  9. ^ "80th Annual Academy Awards Nominees". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 2008-01-22. http://www.oscars.org/80academyawards/nominees/index.html. Retrieved 2008-01-22.  
  10. ^ Corliss, Richard; “The 10 Best Movies”; Time magazine; December 24, 2007; Page 40.
  11. ^ Corliss, Richard; “The 10 Best Movies”; time.com
  12. ^ No End in Sight (2007) - Awards
  13. ^ "Metacritic: 2007 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/film/awards/2007/toptens.shtml. Retrieved 2008-01-05.  
  14. ^ Amazon.com: No End in Sight: Iraq's Descent into Chaos: Charles Ferguson: Books

See also

External links


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